Wednesday, April 21, 2010

From Nairobi despite the volcano

Hope you are all well and haven’t been affected by the volcanic eruption as much as we have!!

After S’s dad spent a lovely week with us, the following day we had our friend R arrive from Los Angeles. She had come to attend a micro-finance conference in Nairobi in a delegation of women who are trying to help end poverty through learning about alternative ways to support small communities in some of the poorest parts of the world. She attended the conference with Marianne Williamson, a spiritual author, famous in the United States, who had invited R to come to Nairobi. S went with her to a few of the conference talks and met Muhammed Yunus, a Nobel Peace Prize Winner who is from Bangladesh and he founded a bank which was designed to help lift people out of poverty.

On the Friday night, S and I were invited to the beautiful Nairobi Synagogue to attend the service where R had been invited to speak about some of her life experiences, and afterwards, we were invited by two Orthodox Jewish brothers, Levi and Mendy, to a delicious Shabbat dinner. Levi and Mendy are originally from Brooklyn, NY and they had been invited to the Jewish community in Nairobi to help lead the Passover Seder and holiday celebrations. They were very entertaining and down to earth and we all enjoyed their company and hospitality very much.

On Saturday, my parents arrived from England and over the following days, we took them on safari around Nairobi National Park, where we were astounded to come face to face with lions and lionesses almost as soon as we entered the plains! A huge lion had obviously just fed from a kill and was lounging about in the grass with his lioness companion. They were incredibly beautiful to watch and we got some great photos. Later in the day we saw a huge variety of birds, ranging from vultures to ostrich, down to tiny ‘blink and you miss it’ birds. We were shocked to drive through areas where there are normally troops of monkeys and baboons, only to find the place virtually empty. Just a week before, when we had gone with G and P on safari, there had been a big baboon that had launched himself at our car and held onto the roof as we drove along before finally dismounting and S picked up speed. We were soon to realise that the baboons were gone for good reason…S stopped the car to catch a photo of a bird, and then a movement in the long grasses revealed yet another lion- with a beautiful copper coloured mane- he looked just like Aslan in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe! By the end of the day, we had seen four different lions in different locations- sheer luck, as we know many people who have lived here for eight months and have never seen one yet!

We also visited the giraffe centre, where mum and R kissed a giraffe, the elephant orphanage, where we watched baby elephants roll in the mud and Lake Naivasha where S and Dad had a close encounter with a hippo and where we found huge groups of pelicans. The elephant orphanage is a sad reminder that poaching still goes on, and many of these tiny elephants have lost their families and mothers to someone who barbarically slaughtered them for their ivory. Another factor that brings the elephants to the orphanage is drought, which prevails in the North- hard to believe here when we have been getting torrential downpours through all the night- it is currently the season for the Kenyan long rains.

All was going well, and what with the lovely time we spent with G camping, trekking up the side of Mount Suswa volcano, golfing in Muthaiga and sunbathing in the garden of the five bedroom house we have been housesitting in- we were thoroughly enjoying the holiday. Our work at Dandora has been going well- and with books donated by our family- we have a great little library that the kids are so happy about.

On Thursday, we said our goodbyes to R and she went to the airport to fly back to LA and we headed to Naivasha. Half way around Cresent Island, the phone rang and Ruth informed us of the Icelandic Volcano. R’s flight was cancelled, and so was my parents on Sunday, and as I am writing this I have been informed that Heathrow airspace has been re-opened and R is being taken to the airport to hopefully begin her journey home. Mum and dad have been told that the earliest possible flight for them is on the 26th April- over a week after they were due to fly. This has been a little complicated, due to running out of cash, bank cards not working, medicine etc also having to move back to the school and out of the big house- but luckily, mum and dad are able to currently stay in a colleagues flat- she has been stranded in the UK and is not yet back at school. It’s the uncertainty that is affecting everyone- with news stories being the only source of information and headlines saying it could last twelve months- its hard to just relax and enjoy the extra days together. But hopefully all will soon be resolved…I know that there are so many friends of mine across the globe who have been affected…

This Saturday, S will be running our second volunteer teaching training session- this time in the slum of Mathare- there has been a big positive response with almost 40 people attending (our last session was for 11 people). We really hope that this small thing we can do will have a big impact on the children who will benefit from their volunteers being better trained.

Well that’s all for now- its back to work for me and S!


  1. Hey Jenny, here's keeping my fingers crossed your mum and dad get back as planned Monday.
    I told the office, when he's back I am *so* having some time off! :-)


  2. HA! They are due to fly in the morning so fingers crossed!